Council on American-Islamic Relations Seeks Probe into Cleveland Officer's Twitter Activity

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on the Cleveland Division of Police to investigate Sgt. Frank Woyma's social media activity, which, the group points out publicly, includes a litany of anti-Islam messaging and racist overtones.

Much of Woyma's social output is the fairly rote "blue lives matter," "teach your kids to comply" police stuff. But as the local outpost of CAIR asserts, Woyma — recently promoted from patrol officer to sergeant — has "retweeted images of a Quran being flushed down a toilet and of President Obama's campaign logo with the headline 'This is a symbol of racism, I would like it removed from my country.' One retweet, with an image of a Crusader knight (seen here), is headlined: 'I will turn back the Muslim hordes,' with the note 'Join our fight to save America.'" At the bottom of that image, there's a note about protecting the U.S. from sharia law "at all cost" (sic). It's unclear what sort of dangerous threat to the U.S. is being referenced.

A particularly insightful photo — tweeted by Woyma, not retweeted — shows an elephant shitting onto the ground. The caption, written by Tom Francois: "And here we have an extremely rare photo of the actual birth of Barack Hussein Obama! Kenya Africa 1961" So that sort of stuff.

His Twitter account, as of Wednesday afternoon, is public. [5:42 p.m. update: His account is now private.]

"While Sgt. Woyma is retweeting racist and anti-Muslim materials on a private account, his clearly bigoted views can only serve to cast a negative light on the Cleveland Division of Police and harm relations with the community he is supposed to serve and protect," CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson said in a public statement. 

Opinions are opinions, RTs aren't endorsements, etc. But the issue that CAIR is getting at has to do with internal rules at the police department.

The CPD social media policy is available online. Under the policy, department employees may not disseminate information that "[c]ontains statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, religion or protected class of individuals."

[5:42 p.m. update:] The police department will look into this matter following the attention it received "today by local media," according to Sgt. Ali Pillow, who said that he and the public information office were not contacted by CAIR. He added, "To my knowledge neither was Chief Williams." The police department has not yet responded to requests for information about CAIR's request. We'll update when we hear back.

Shearson later added in an exchange with Scene: "We are very concerned about whether this officer can fairly police the various diverse communities that he denigrates openly on social media: immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, protestors, civil rights advocates, and others. We do not share the Chief’s sentiment that this recently promoted officer can set the tone for reform."

Those who've been following the Northeast Ohio Media Group's Forcing Change series might remember Woyma from a 2006 Warehouse District incident that ended with him leaping onto a man's back and "slamming [an] empty Corona bottle against his head." According to court testimony, Woyma threatened to sue the man after the beating. 

The original complaint, filed in federal court and later settled for $25,000, is available below.

Via Collaborative for a Safe, Fair and Just Cleveland, CAIR-Cleveland is part of a group that recently filed an amicus brief in federal court seeking modifications to the city's consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Szewczyk v. Woyma, Jr. et al